Only partially Tongue-in-Cheek Suggestion to Starbucks

For New Yorkers a Starbucks public bathroom was a much appreciated relief oasis in a desolate desert filled with “Restroom for customers only” signs. Of course, in New York as on the internet once something becomes common knowledge to the unwashed masses (craigslist, myspace) the quality goes right into the toilet (pun intended). So Starbucks has suspended their open bathroom policy which was previously a great way to get foot traffic in the door. A sad day for cross-legged and squinting New Yorkers but understandable given the antics that were going on in their establishments. But not all is lost, perhaps this is a new marketing opportunity?

In loyalty marketing there are two types of customer benefits: hard and soft. Hard benefits are quantifiable – think coupons. Soft benefits and more esoteric and psychological and meant to build warm and fuzzy branding feelings – think a customized card on your birthday. Sure, lots of retailers have mobile apps and the hard benefits are there to instill loyalty: discounts mostly. But what about a mobile app that had a soft benefit of epic proportions to the on-the-go New Yorker: it opens bathroom doors.

I personally hate Starbucks coffee: bitter and thin I find it. I think I’ve purchased 5 cups in the 15 plus years I’ve been exposed to the brand. Given their sales and ubiquity I’m clearly in the minority. But if their app could open bathroom doors it would be the very first app I would download when I get my Christmas present to myself: the iPhone 4s. It might soften my opinion, maybe get me to try one of those ridiculously overpriced double half skim whatever foamy fru fru drinks I’ve previously managed to successfully live my life without.

You listening Starbucks? Here’s how it works. You install those 4 number code push button locks on your bathroom doors. In the app, in addition to the announcements about new drinks and coupons and all that stuff that everyone already does, you have a section that lists the 4 digit codes to the bathroom locks. Of course, it’s geo-location driven so just push a button and the app tells you the code for your current Starbucks location. And maybe you don’t allow that feature to work unless push notifications is enabled in your settings allowing for greater app value?